I'd like to say I sold my sailboat to a guy who lives in north-central Washington State because the boat would be so far away that I wouldn't even be tempted to buy her back for the fourth time.
But that's not exactly true. The new owner of my old boat, Kalea, just happens to live in Twisp, WA, (pop. 915) which is where he saw my Internet ad and insisted on buying her sight unseen and no quibbling on the price.
Seems the guy loves the Sparkman-Stephens Yankee Dolphin line of "pocket cruisers" as much as I do. He was a student of naval architecture and even once met the legendary Olin Stephens, the Dolphin's renown designer. He just had to have my boat and he was ready to bring his pickup truck 28-hundred miles east to trailer her back to Twisp
What's more, he and his wife had fond memories of sailing a Yankee Dolphin off Vancouver Island many years ago. His unfulfilled dream was to sail with his family in an identical boat up the Inland Passage into Alaska.
Now, the Dolphin is a tough little boat. But she is only 24 feet long. Those Alaskan waters can be, well, intimidating, and that's something of an understatement. A few autumns ago, my wife and I were passengers aboard one of those luxurious leviathans that routinely cruise between Seattle and Skagway. Even that enormous floating palace endured a couple of heavy poundings from those angry northern seas.
My Internet ad drew lots of queries, two of them from Texas. One guy in Corpus Christi said he was ready to quit his job, fly up to Baltimore, buy Kalea and sail her back to his marina on the Gulf. I suggested that he think seriously about that plan and phone me in a few days. He never called back.
I could be pretty casual about selling Kalea. After all, I had gained some experience by selling her twice before. I bought her in ‘79, sailed her on the Potomac for a few seasons, then sold her for a bigger boat, a pretty but pokey Cheoy Lee 28 for weekends on the Bay.
But I missed the times when I would stroll down to the marina at our Potomac-front community and free Kalea's dock lines for a couple of serene hours of river sailing. So I bought her back and for a time enjoyed the mixed blessing of two-boat ownership, the Cheoy Lee tethered in Eastport and the little Dolphin right down the road in Mount Vernon.
That novelty wore out along with my elbows and knees as I struggled to keep both boats properly maintained, picking up lots of frequent driver miles for those countless trips to Annapolis and back. So I reluctantly re-sold Kalea, this time to dear friends who treated her with love and tenderness until illness compelled them to put her up for sale. I, in the meantime, had sold the Cheoy Lee in anticipation of our retirement in Delaware. It seemed like a good idea to re-purchase Kalea and bring her with us to our retirement home near Bethany.
It was, emphatically, not a good idea.
We are surrounded by water down here on Delaware's lower coast. But the water is the wrong kind for a smallish cruising sailboat. The bays are too shallow (I was getting to know all the Towboat US guys by their first name), and the ocean is fine for the squadrons of Grady Whites that buzz out 70 miles to the various seabed canyons in search of flounder and tuna but hold little appeal for a boat that was accustomed to reveling in the quiet splendors of the Chesapeake and her beautiful tributaries.
Sticking Kalea's nose into the ocean required running the gauntlet of a turbulent inlet where the current was typically 6 to 7 knots under a bridge that provided Kalea with a scant six inches of clearance when the tide was at its max. From the perspective of a helmsman looking up at that hovering span, there didn't seem to be any air at all between the masthead and those massive steel girders.
The terror of squeezing under the Indian River Bridge and bucking the fast-running water pushing into the Bay was occasionally followed by some pleasant coastal sailing. An afternoon like this on the Chesapeake would often conclude with the drop of the lunch hook in some lovely secluded cove for a sip of a nice Australian chard.
There are no pleasant, sailboat-friendly coves out here. Certainly not on a easterly heading with Portugal your next way point. So you sail and tack and tack some more and try to get back before the water rises too high. That could cause Kalea to bang her head against the dreaded bridge.
Two years was about as much as Kalea and and her skipper wanted to take of this kind of white-knuckle boating. The skipper kipper needed a rest and Kalea wanted to spend her autumnal years in a sailboat-friendly environment, preferably the Chesapeake.
Alas, very few responses to my Internet ad came from local potential buyers. A true appreciation for Olin Stephens' classic little sloop obviously lies in farther-flung places. I got a few calls from California and Florida and one from New Hampshire, but they all came after the man from Twisp called and nailed the deal then and there.
Kalea is a lady with quite a past. Yankee Dolphin No. 174, despite her name, is a California girl, built in Santa Ana, to be exact. One of her former owners told me she was on display at the 1970 Boat Show in Chicago. Then, she somehow landed on the Chesapeake and spent her prime years cruising the Bay, the Potomac and the Rapahannock.
Now that her home base is Twisp, WA, that voyage to Alaska may or may not be in her future. I hope for the sake and safety of her new owner and his family that they venture no farther than the San Juan Islands in the protected Puget Sound. If they must get close and personal with grizzlies and glaciers, they should let Holland-America do the driving.
As for myself, I have gone through my first boat-less sailing season in forty years. Sometimes the withdrawal symptoms reminded me of the struggle I had kicking the tobacco habit a dozen years ago.. Each time I drive across the magnificent Bay Bridge, I steal a glance at the sailboat activity on the water far below. Sleek sloops slicing through the gentle swells, agile Hobies buzzing like hummingbirds around a racing mark. Those are my worst withdrawal moments.
Kalea is out of sight. By next year she might be out of mind. Oh, I saw a Sanderling cat boat at a local marina…
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